50,000 march to support ANC in Zulu area

March 26, 1994|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,Johannesburg Bureau of The Sun

DURBAN, South Africa -- The battle for Natal, which has led to an increasing amount of bloodshed in black townships over the last week, took to the streets of this coastal city yesterday with a huge, peaceful, display of support for the African National Congress (ANC).

An estimated 50,000 marchers gathered here in the first of what ANC officials say will be a series of actions in response to the threats of Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party to resist violently any attempt to hold the election April 26-28 in Natal.

"Votes Not War" read one placard held by a marcher, a sentiment echoed by many participants.

Inkatha is boycotting the election and Mr. Buthelezi, head of KwaZulu, the Natal homeland for the Zulu tribe, is claiming that the ANC wants to use its almost certain victory in the election to dominate the 7 million Zulu people, the largest ethnic group in South Africa.

In a series of bellicose meetings in the KwaZulu capital of Ulundi this week, he continued to be supported by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, who is calling for a restoration of a sovereign Zulu kingdom.

But the ANC, backed by polls, claims that most Zulus want to participate in the country's first non-racial election.

"We are here to show people that we want to vote," said Paulus Pharoe who denied that Mr. Buthelezi speaks for the Zulu.

"All the people here are Zulus," he said gesturing to the huge crowd. "All of them. And we all want to vote."

Despite their opposition to Mr. Buthelezi, no one had a bad word for King Goodwill.

"We like the king. He is our king," said Mr. Pharoe. "Buthelezi is just using him."

"I respect my king," said a 53-year-old man. "He is like kings and queens all over the world. Even if I disagree with him, I respect him."

This man blamed the 45-year-old king's troubles on the fact that he received an inferior education in the apartheid years.

"If he was well-educated, Buthelezi would not be able to use him the way he does," the man said.

Fear that the ANC march would lead to violence, perhaps because of Inkatha counter-demonstrations, caused virtually every business in the city to close by noon.

Schools also dismissed pupils early. Away from the crowded march route, the city was eerily empty.

But, with the exception of a few overturned trash cans and torn-down political posters, the march went off without incident, the tens of thousands walking on a hot, muggy day in a circular route beginning and ending with a short rally at a stadium. They stopped by city hall to deliver a statement of demands.

The march came at the end of a week of increasing pressure on Mr. Buthelezi, which was met by an equal amount of resistance.

Governments of the other homelands, set up to deny blacks South African citizenship, were crumbling. Bophuthatswana, Ciskei and Lebowa were taken over by the South African government in the last two weeks.

Judge Johann Kriegler, who heads the Independent Electoral Commission which is putting on the April vote, visited Mr. Buthelezi in Ulundi on Wednesday to try to get an assurance of cooperation in staging the election in KwaZulu.

Though he received a few minor concessions, Judge Kriegler's official report declared that free and fair elections are not possible in KwaZulu under current conditions.

This had led to calls by the ANC for the Transitional Executive Council (TEC), the multiracial, multiparty body charged with making sure the elections take place fairly, to take over the KwaZulu government.

As the pressure on Mr. Buthelezi has increased, so have the number of violent incidents in black townships in Natal, including those around Durban that have been relatively free of such troubles until recently.

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